I have always viewed the exquisitely detailed Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 as one of the most powerful and compelling reasons for thinking that Christianity is indeed true. Written some 700 years before Christ’s life on earth, this prophecy details the suffering and redemptive purposes of the Messiah. Moreover, the presence of the entire book of Isaiah in the Qumran scrolls gives us confidence that this prophecy pre-dates the first century by at least a couple hundred years. Its presence among the Jewish Scriptures precludes any possibility of Christian tampering anyway, and such a possibility is uniformly rejected among contemporary scholarship.
So what does this passage say? Take a look at the following video:
Some might point to the fact that contemporary Jews reject this passage as being messianic. However, having read the conventional views among them, I think such a view is untenable. Firstly, if the passage — as most contemporary Jews maintain — is really a personification of the nation of Israel, then the passage makes no sense when it says “…for the transgressions of my people [i.e. Israel] he was striken…though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.” The term “the servant” is also used of the messiah in other parts of the Bible, such as in Zechariah 3:8 (“I am going to bring my servant, the Branch”)
Moreover, most contemporary Jews are simply not familiar with the chapter – it is curiously avoided in the synagogue readings. We can, however, settle the issue of the passage’s historical Judaic interpretation by going to the ancient sources. Jonathan ben Uziel (early 1st century), for example, in his Targum (an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible), paraphrasing Isaiah 53, wrote: “My servant, the Messiah, will be great, who was bruised for our sins.” Furthermore, the Talmud (in the Midrash Tanchumi) states with reference to Isaiah 52:13 that “He was more exalted than Abraham, more extolled than Moses; higher than the angels.”
Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees in John 5, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:10-12, ”Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
Could this passage really refer to anyone besides Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? Is all this just one big happy coincidence? You decide!